Best Finance Jobs at a Corporation

Finance jobs are some of the world's most prestigious and highly lucrative careers.

Finance jobs are some of the world's most prestigious and highly lucrative careers. That is true even for entry-level positions. However, the barriers are high, and so is the compensation. 

Best Finance Jobs at a Corporation

If you considered a career in finance, you probably said that "either investment banking or nothing!" What if there are some other undervalued paths for success in this career?

Sure, it is not as prestigious as investment banking. Still, it has many opportunities. If you can work your way out, you may earn hundreds of thousands to several million per year. So let's first talk about why companies need this division in their organization.

Every business is built to make money. Otherwise, we would not launch the company if it can't satisfy the requirements of a for-profit enterprise. To be profitable, it must be financially healthy and robust. But who precisely oversees that and communicates with the firm's stakeholders?

The answer is corporate finance professionals. They try to ensure that all business decisions are financially sound and rational. If you want to work in this field, there are several opportunities that you can use.

The positions, salaries, and perspectives vary depending on the company and industry. However, the best possible jobs are those where you are involved in the decision-making on investments, capital allocation, long-term planning, and value creation.

Given our requirements, the best positions in this field are:

  1. Corporate Development (CD)
  2. Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A)
  3. Treasury
  4. Investor Relations (IR)

Sure, there are also other possible types of jobs, but these are the leaders in corporate finance. It will be even better if those positions are at Fortune 500 companies. We will talk first about these jobs and then consider all other opportunities. 

In addition, we will cover the typical employers, entry points, and exit options of this career. So, let's first get started with the types of jobs.

Chess

The King of the Castle in the Corporate Finance Career Path: The Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Before diving deep into the field, first, let's discuss the person at the top of the hierarchy - the Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

"Wait, what about the Chief Executive Officer (CEO)? Isn't he on the top of the pyramid?" Well, yes. But here is the thing. CEO is the King of the company, while CFO is the King of the corporate finance world. So, we are discussing CFO from the financial perspective.

As mentioned before, the departments dramatically vary based on the following:

  • Organization
  • Size of the division
  • Industry
  • Many other parameters

Overall, the general structure is the same across the companies, and people in these positions constantly report to the CFO:

  • The Financial Planning and Analysis Manager: Management Accounting Department's Head
  • The Controller: Financial Accounting Department's Head
  • The Treasurer: Head of the treasury department

Types of corporate finance jobs

Directions

#1 Corporate Development (and Strategy)

Corporate development (Corp Dev) is like an M&A product group at Investment Banking. Why? Because you primarily work with the merger and acquisition deals for the company. You will work with investment bankers to:

  • Find target firms
  • Make negotiations
  • Strike deals that might create value

These transactions vary dramatically and can have a significant impact on the firm. Since the stake is high for both the target firm and the acquiring firm, the corporate development's work is considered "confidential." 

If the information is leaked or the deal is done wrong, it might put down the firm for several years. The same is true for successful sales.

This group is sometimes combined with the Strategy group, while other times, they are separate. 

The strategy group works with the M&A (if combined with Corporate Development). It also makes long-term decisions on capital allocation and market positioning.

#2 Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A)

The FP&A group does the following work:

So they work with accounting, operations, and even Corp Dev and Investor Relations to handle the firm's operating model.

It could be one of the most exciting and lucrative jobs among other corporate finance jobs. The rationale is close relations with capital spending, operating budgets, and performance management.

#3 Treasury

treasury

The Treasury Department is responsible for a range of company's financial activities, such as:

The division ensures that the company's financial position and capital structure are optimized. They meet with bankers to deal with lines of credit, FX trades, money market securities, and other products. 

It is the group's responsibility to ensure the careful management of cash position against the operational expectations of the company's future.

#4 Investor Relations (IR)

IR is not always a part of the corporate finance department. But at some firms, it is combined with corporate finance. For example, the large, sophisticated investor relations group often works with share buybacks, dividend policies, and M&A activity. 

All of those are core concepts in corporate finance. In addition, professionals in investor relations possess robust financial modeling and valuation skills. They may have a detailed conversation with equity research.

What About Other Corporate Finance Jobs?

"Ok, I know what the best of the best is. But, are there any alternatives to the jobs mentioned above?"

Yes. They exist and are mainly in the "core" functions group. But, many of them are not in the corporate finance division. Thus we didn't discuss them.

For example, a Pricing job can either be a marketing or a finance role, depending on the firm. 

Internal Audit and Risk Management teams are usually independent bodies that work only with the CEO and board of directors rather than the CFO. They do so to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

The tax department is also very specialized, and it's infrequent for someone to move from it to other corporate finance jobs.

Five types of corporate finance employers

The followings are the most common employers in this field:

1. Banks

banks

Banks may consider candidates for corporate finance to succeed financially. For example, the Chief Financial Officer might be responsible for the financial part of the business. They may also be in charge of specific departments.

Banks offer financial services to customers and might involve corporate finance specialists to handle the customers.

Employees usually work traditionally 40 hours per week. However, there are some exceptions where they might be involved in different projects, such as preparing financial reports for a board of directors.

The largest banks are Goldman SachsJPMorgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley.

2. Institutions

institutions

Here by "Institutions," I mean financial institutions such as hedge funds, mutual funds, investment firms, and other institutions that manage the money of individuals and corporations. Some positions in this type of firm might require long hours because of the nature of the work.

Usually, trading stocksbondscommodities, and other assets in a short time is pretty stressful and requires focused attention.

VanguardBlackRockBlackstone, and Bridgewater Associates are well-known investment management companies.

3. Public accounting firms

Calculator

These firms offer their services to other businesses, government entities, public companies, and sometimes nonprofits. They provide the following services:

These firms have corporate finance jobs in general accounting, corporate accounting, tax preparation, and financial planning. The leaders in this industry are Big Four companies:

4. Corporations

corporations

Companies hire corporate finance professionals to manage investments, analyze the financial strength and improve the financial side of the business. In most cases, there is a dedicated team for corporate finance, and you may find specific roles.

The best corporations to work for are primarily Fortune 500 companies:

5. Small businesses

small business

You can join small businesses, too, because there is a high demand for corporate finance roles. The main job of startup companies is to keep costs low and secure as many investments as possible. Also, the business might strategically allocate capital and scale exponentially.

Due to the startup's nature, the work of corporate finance specialists might be challenging. To grow the business, all individuals must work long hours. You may not always get the salary in the form of cash. Some portion of your compensation might be in the stocks of the startup.

If the startup succeeds, you will be wealthy compared to others working at large companies. But, if the business loses, you will be left with nothing. That is the reality. Do your math and always consider all the pros and cons before making any decision.

How to Get Corporate Finance Jobs

Path

Well, there are several ways to get the above jobs. Each career path has its unique characteristics. There are many ways to break into corporate finance, and here are a few examples of them:

Paths to corporate development

Paths to FP&A

  • Accounting department experience
  • Public Accounting Company (Big 4) experience
  • Coming from a bank (specifically investment banking and equity research background)
  • Experience at a competitor firm

Paths to Treasury

  • Moving internally from the accounting department of the firm
  • From an investment banking (specifically DCM)
  • Leveraging corporate banking experience
  • Working at a Public Accounting or Auditing Firm (Big Four)

Paths to IR

  • Transfer from Equity research analyst role
  • Internal transfer from the Finance or FP&A department of the company
  • Coming from the competitor firm

So, How Do You Become a CFO?

Office

"I have one more question. How can I be the King in this world? How can I be the CFO of the company?"

The CFO manages about 25 to 200 people, and his compensation is $300,000 (the more significant the firm, the bigger the balance). Although many want to be in this position, few (<20%) succeed.

This role requires you to have tons of skills and networking. Doing a great job is only half of the advancement. The other side is networking. You should know the right people and show them they can trust you with serious work.

Asset management and hedge fund careers have more merit-based advancement, while corporate finance differs.

In the past, working as an FP&A manager and knowing everything to hit your profit (net income) target and how to interact with other groups was a standard way of promotion. 

But today, with regulatory scrutiny, CFOs can be prisoned if they certify incorrect financial statements. As a result, regulation is strict, and the role of controllership has increased.

Controllership is not the most "exciting" job, but you can use that experience to reach the CFO level. Having a Big Four experience would also give you a significant edge.

Knowing how to manage the profit and loss statement by working as a Management Accountant for a couple of years would be an excellent foundation for your career.

Corporate Finance Career Path: The Exit Opportunities

exit

What are the exit opportunities in this field? Some people say there are few opportunities, and you will be pigeonholed. Others say you have great flexibility over different industries. In general, I would say that the statistical distribution is the following:

  • 60% of people go to another firm's corporate finance division
  • 10% go to venture capital or investment banking
  • 20% go to consulting
  • 10% move to risk management or sales & marketing

Investment banking and private equity is still possible after corporate finance, but it is much more challenging. 

The skills, however, are relevant in FP&A on how to model a firm's revenues and expenses. Most investment bankers never saw what their spreadsheet means in reality. Compared with them, you will be more grounded and understand the practice behind those numbers. 

Also, the controllership work will help you understand the Balance Sheet perfectly. But to move to other places, you have to be very talented + highly connected. Otherwise, it would be nearly impossible to move to lucrative positions.

But with that route, it is easier to re-brand yourself with an MBA degree at a target school. Then you can use that brand to switch to another function or industry.

Management consulting would also be an option for you since FP&A teaches you more about strategy. However, operational consulting would be much better because you can show your skills in executing and implementing the system. 

Sales & marketing is another opportunity for you if you are interested. You can forget about the laws, regulations, and even audits. All you have to do is to sell.

The finance background would even be a plus because many salespeople don't understand the financial impact of their actions.

No matter where you go, you should prepare for the interview well to be hired. Our Interview Prep Guides will help you to realize your goal.

Credentials for Corporate Finance Jobs

credentials

Although professional designations are not required, they are still preferred for recruitment and promotion. They also could be great ways to show your dedication and knowledge. Here are the most common credentials that will boost your career to another level:

  1. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
  2. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
  3. Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
  4. Financial Risk Manager (FRM)

Our Professional Designations guide will show you how to advance your career with the designations.

Also, the Master in Business Administration (MBA) degree would be a plus. If you are unsure about the MBA degree, check our Is MBA Right For You? course.

Skills needed for a career in CorpFin

Besides the degrees and certifications, you need practical skills to achieve your dreams.

Here is the list of skills that you have to develop in yourself:

Our Foundations Package and Elite Modeling Package course will equip you with all the hard skills you need at work. 

Elite Modeling Package

Everything You Need To Master Financial Modeling

To Help You Thrive in the Most Prestigious Jobs on Wall Street.

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Researched and authored by Almat Orakbay | LinkedIn

Edited by Colt DiGiovanni

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